What’s Behind Gamification’s Spectacular Growth

M2 Research recently updated its bellwether forecast for Gamification Industry revenues, projecting aggregate spending of $2.6Bn by 2016 in the US, climbing from $242m in 2012. Revenues among the leading gamification platform providers are set to approximately double per year from 2011 to 2016. Wanda Meloni, lead analyst and CEO at M2 will further analyze this data and present entirely new findings at GSummit in June.

One of the more intriguing elements of M2’s report is on enterprise gamification – or the use of game mechanics that face internal processes and employees. Though common estimates put enterprise gamification at approximately 50% of all activity in the market, vendors today only account for roughly 25% of spending according to M2. This is in sharp contrast to the marketing vertical where platforms like Badgeville, BunchBall and BigDoor are perceived to have upwards of 85% participation. The unaccounted for segments are mostly comprised of DIY solutions, built internally to solve specific business needs – often without the benefit of formal gamification training.

Although the core design techniques in enterprise and consumer gamification are mostly identical, they are perceived very differently inside most organizations. Vendors typically sell consumer gamification to marketing, product and community-management executives. Enterprise projects tend to channel through Human Resources, Training, IT or Finance groups looking to improve existing processes. This bifurcation is allowing some vendors to “double-dip”, entering companies via one track and then selling their platform a second time when the other group becomes gamification-aware.


8 Rules For Creating A Passionate Work Culture – This is a great article

Excerpted from Passion Capital: The World’s Most Valuable Asset © 2012 by Paul Alofs.

Several years ago I was in the Thomson Building in Toronto. I went down the hall to the small kitchen to get myself a cup of coffee. Ken Thomson was there, making himself some instant soup. At the time, he was the ninth-richest man in the world, worth approximately $19.6 billion. Enough, certainly, to afford a nice lunch. I looked at the soup he was stirring. “It suits me just fine,” he said, smiling.

Thomson understood value. Neighbors reported seeing him leave his local grocery store with jumbo packages of tissues that were on sale. He bought off-the-rack suits and had his old shoes resoled. Yet he had no difficulty paying almost $76 million for a painting (for Peter Paul Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents, in 2002). He sought value, whether it was in business, art, or groceries.

In 1976, Thomson inherited a $500-million business empire that was built on newspapers, publishing, travel agencies, and oil. By the time he died, in 2006, his empire had grown to $25 billion.

He left both a financial legacy and an art legacy, but his most lasting legacy might be the culture he created. Geoffrey Beattie, who worked closely with him, said that Ken wasn’t a business genius. His success came from being a principled investor and from surrounding himself with good people and staying loyal to them. In return he earned their loyalty.

For the long-term viability of any enterprise, Thomson understood that you needed a viable corporate culture. It, too, had to be long-term. So he cultivated good people and kept them. Thomson worked with honest and competent business managers and gave them his long-term commitment and support. From these modest principles, an empire grew.

Thomson created a culture that extended out from him and has lived after him. Here are eight rules for creating the right conditions for a culture that reflects your creed:

1. Hire the right people

Hire for passion and commitment first, experience second, and credentials third. There is no shortage of impressive CVs out there, but you should try to find people who are interested in the same things you are. You don’t want to be simply a stepping stone on an employee’s journey toward his or her own (very different) passion. Asking the right questions is key: What do you love about your chosen career? What inspires you? What courses in school did you dread? You want to get a sense of what the potential employee believes.

2. Communicate

Once you have the right people, you need to sit down regularly with them and discuss what is going well and what isn’t. It’s critical to take note of your victories, but it’s just as important to analyze your losses. A fertile culture is one that recognizes when things don’t work and adjusts to rectify the problem. As well, people need to feel safe and trusted, to understand that they can speak freely without fear of repercussion.

The art of communication tends to put the stress on talking, but listening is equally important. Great cultures grow around people who listen, not just to each other or to their clients and stakeholders. It’s also important to listen to what’s happening outside your walls. What is the market saying? What is the zeitgeist? What developments, trends, and calamities are going on?

3. Tend to the weeds

A culture of passion capital can be compromised by the wrong people. One of the most destructive corporate weeds is the whiner. Whiners aren’t necessarily public with their complaints. They don’t stand up in meetings and articulate everything they think is wrong with the company. Instead, they move through the organization, speaking privately, sowing doubt, strangling passion. Sometimes this is simply the nature of the beast: they whined at their last job and will whine at the next. Sometimes these people simply aren’t a good fit. Your passion isn’t theirs. Constructive criticism is healthy, but relentless complaining is toxic. Identify these people and replace them.

4. Work hard, play hard

To obtain passion capital requires a work ethic. It’s easy to do what you love. In the global economy we can measure who has a superior work ethic, who is leading in productivity. Not many industries these days thrive on a forty-hour work week. A culture where everyone understands that long hours are sometimes required will work if this sacrifice is recognized and rewarded.

5. Be ambitious

“Make no little plans: they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” These words were uttered by Daniel Burnham, the Chicago architect whose vision recreated the city after the great fire of 1871. The result of his ambition is an extraordinary American city that still has the magic to stir men’s blood. Ambition is sometimes seen as a negative these days, but without it we would stagnate. You need a culture that supports big steps and powerful beliefs. You can see these qualities in cities that have transformed themselves. Cities are the most visible examples of successful and failed cultures. Bilbao and Barcelona did so and became the envy of the world and prime tourist destinations. Pittsburgh reinvented itself when the steel industry withered. But Detroit wasn’t able to do the same when the auto industry took a dive.

6. Celebrate differences 

When choosing students for a program, most universities consider more than just marks. If you had a dozen straight-A students who were from the same socio-economic background and the same geographical area, you might not get much in the way of interesting debate or interaction. Great cultures are built on a diversity of background, experience, and interests. These differences generate energy, which is critical to any enterprise.

7. Create the space 

Years ago, scientists working in laboratories were often in underground bunkers and rarely saw their colleagues; secrecy was prized. Now innovation is prized. In cutting-edge research and academic buildings, architects try to promote as much interaction as possible. They design spaces where people from different disciplines will come together, whether in workspace or in common leisure space. Their reasoning is simple: it is this interaction that helps breed revolutionary ideas. Creative and engineering chat over coffee. HR and marketing bump into one another in the fitness center. Culture is made in the physical space. Look at your space and ask, “Does it promote interaction and connectivity?”

8. Take the long view 

If your culture is dependent on this quarter’s earnings or this month’s sales targets, then it is handicapped by short-term thinking. Passion capitalists take the long view. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in five years. The culture needs to look ahead, not just in months but in years and even decades.

The writer Arthur Koestler said that a writer’s ambition should be to trade a hundred contemporary readers for ten readers in ten years’ time and for one reader in a hundred years’ time. Lasting influence is better than a burst of fame. Keep an eye on the long view.

Excerpted from Passion Capital: The World’s Most Valuable Asset © 2012 by Paul Alofs. Published by Signal, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


Questions you want to avoid

You finally got the meeting you sought with a top executive at a prospective client. You prepare well for the session, researching the company and the individual you’re meeting with. After the small talk dies down, you ask your “killer” question:

“I’d like to get a better understanding of your issues. So, what keeps you up at night?”

Terrible question. Awful. Clichéd. One of my clients, the CIO of a large bank, told me that he kicks people out of his office when they pull out that question.

(I’ll get back to why it’s a bad question to use with a prospect you don’t know well in just a minute.)

Good questions can be incredibly powerful. But just as there are powerful questions, there are lousy ones. Here are some of the questions you should avoid:

1. Closed Questions

Anyone who has ever had to sell something knows that closed-ended questions are the least productive type of question you can ask. If you are trying to build a relationship with someone and want to understand how they think and what their issues are, you want to move as quickly as possible from closed-ended to open-ended questions. Some examples:

Instead of: “What’s your market share?” Try: “What are the main reasons you’ve gained market share in the last three years?”

Instead of: “When did you start your new job?” Try: “What’s the most rewarding part of your new job?”

Instead of: “How long do you want the training session to be?” Try: “Why do you want to do a training workshop?”

2. Judgmental Questions

Some questions are really just hidden judgments. For example:

“You didn’t really mean to do that, did you?”

“Why do you think you always arrive late?”

Judgmental questions stop the conversation dead in its tracks. They shut the other person down.

3. Sarcastic Questions

Sometimes we ask questions that aren’t really questions—they are just vehicles for sarcasm and anger, a blunt instrument to beat up on someone. I once heard a parent, for example, ask their high school junior, “Why do you think a competitive college is going to admit you with those kinds of grades?” Other examples would include questions like, “You’re so moody, why would anyone want a relationship with you?” and “Do you seriously think that is going to be acceptable?”


10 tips for ‘spying’ on your competition

Every salesperson needs to have a little James Bond in them. The fancy phrase for spying on your industry is “competitive intelligence,” which essentially means understanding and learning what’s happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible.

In short, competitive intelligence empowers you to anticipate and face challenges seen and unseen. Here are 10 perfectly legal ways to conduct online “espionage.”

1. Educate yourself about Google scholar.

Instead of just searching on Google (GOOG) and getting all the crud the Internet has to offer, refine your search. Start with Google Scholar, which provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. You can search across many disciplines and sources to retrieve articles, theses, books, abstracts, and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other websites.

2. Go where the writers go.

Check out the reference links at the Writer’s Guild of America website. This is a great portal to a number of online databases, encyclopedias, and directories.

3. Get to know university librarians.

Because universities have business schools, the library has invested in many online databases. By doing your research at the university’s library, you can have free access to many research databases that would normally be available only for a fee. I recommend starting your search for trade magazine articles with RDS/Business & Industry, Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe and Dow-Jones Interactive. You can either pay to print out the information or email it to yourself.

4. Run a background check.

KnowX.com reports on bankruptcies, liens, judgments, and other legal matters regarding both individuals and businesses.

5. All the news that’s fit to sell. 

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News all have great story archives. The search and headlines are free, but downloading the article will cost you. For business magazines, I prefer Inc. and Forbes, both of which let you search the archives and print articles for free.

6. See your analyst.

Don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on an industry analyst study? There is a cheaper alternative. Check the news releases on the industry analyst sites for appropriate statistics. Here are some of the best places to go: GartnerGroup, Yankee Group, Meta Group, IDG, Forrester Research, Jupiter Communications, Dataquest, and EStats.com

7. Shop the competition.

Do you know what a mystery shopper is? That’s someone who is hired to pretend to shop at a store to monitor the customer’s experience. If possible, try to do the same. If practical, actually buy something.

8. You have my permission.

Does the competitive company have a permission-marketing opt-in email invitation on its website? By all means, give them your email to see what you will receive.

9. At your wire service.

There is lots of free information to sift through on the various wire services. Try both Business Wire and PR Newswire. These provide electronic delivery of corporate news releases and information. For financial news, also try Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, and Bloomberg.

10. Take stock of the competition.

One of best websites for gathering competitive intelligence on public companies is Hoover’s Online, which for a fee  provides in-depth profiles of almost 20,000 companies. However, free content also is available. You can stalk competitors, monitor stock market performance, and get the low-down on IPOs. Don’t forget the free stuff at Yahoo! Finance, which has everything from the latest market summaries to stock research to financial news.

This isn’t really cloak-and dagger-stuff. There is nothing illegal or unethical about using the Internet to learn as much as possible about your industry, your competitors, and even your prospects.


The top 10 sales tactics that beat cold calling

Nothing says “trust me” like a cold call. It probably won’t surprise you to know that prospects hate taking your cold calls as much as you hate making them.

Often sales people tell me they are frustrated with how to generate enough quality leads to keep their pipelines filled. They are dismayed about the quality of their marketing materials, they are concerned with their company’s low profile or they feel pressure because their efforts are not generating enough new prospect leads. Do you face these same hurdles?

The best lead generation is educational because it gets you invited in by the prospect. Here are the top 10 tactics that work, but a la David Letterman, in descending order of effectiveness. These all work, but I like to save the best for last:

10. Advertising.

Isn’t it ironic that none of the great advertising agencies built their clientele by advertising? But if you specialize in an industry and you can get your firm’s name in the right directories, it is always better to be included than not.

9. Direct mail.

This is the traditional direct mail of a letter and a printed piece, like a response card. Some have used this cost effectively, maybe offering a complimentary consultation (there is a much better form of direct mail, however — see tactic No. 1).

8. Publicity.

While getting your name in the newspaper and trade journals is a cost-effective way to increase awareness about your firm, it doesn’t always translate into leads.

7. Paid ballroom seminars.

This is the strategy of renting out the ballroom at the local Marriott or Hilton and charging for an all-day or half-day seminar. Warning: Your information needs to be so valuable that prospects would pay money to get it. Participants should take away a substantial packet of good information from your firm (and a good meal too).

6. E-Newsletters.

This is the water-torture school of marketing, and the opposite of Spam. By signing up for your newsletter lists, prospects are telling you that they are interested in what you have to say but not ready for a relationship now. These people should receive valuable how-to information and event invitations from you on a weekly basis until they decide to opt-out of the list.

5. Networking and tradeshows.

This is an excellent way to gather business cards and ask for permission to include potential clients on your e-newsletter list.

4. Community and association involvement.

Everyone likes to do business with people they know, like and trust. You need to get involved and “circulate to percolate.”

3. How-to articles in client-oriented press.

Second runner up. Better than any brochure is the how-to article that appears in a publication that your target clients read. The blurb at the end of the article lets prospects know how to find you.

2. How-to speeches at prospect industry meetings.

First runner up. People want to hire experts, and an expert by definition is someone who is invited to speak. Actively seek out forums to speak and list past and future speaking dates on your website.

1. Free or low-cost small-scale seminars.

The winner and reigning champion. The best proactive tactic you can employ is to regularly invite prospects by mail and e-mail to small seminars or group consultations. If your prospects are spread out geographically, you can do these briefings via the Internet (Webinars) or the telephone using a bridge line (teleseminars). Instead of cold calls try “warm calls” that are following up on an invitation to a seminar of value.

These can’t be 90-minute commercials. You need to present valuable information about how to solve the problems that your prospects are facing, and then a little mention about your services. The more you help prospects the better it works.


A little about Xerox sales training

Xerox has what is called “client centered selling”. It is their self-developed sales training (more on exactly what that is below). When you start at Xerox you go through a 3 month training phase where every day you have to read and know these 3-ring binders of information. They soon become the bane of your existence. I stacked them up at one point and they were taller than I was (I’m 6’2″). You are on conference calls usually 3 times a week and a trainer is on the phone with your training team. The training team was made up of about 20 people from across the country.

After this training over the phone you take tests almost daily. These tests ask everything from “what type of a stapler does a Docucolor 240 have?” to “What is the difference between a Token ring network and a Microsoft Exchange server?” It is intense. They product train the crap out of you and your test results are stack ranked against your class. It is made completely public and is a great source of stress. Your managers see it, the other senior reps in the office see it, and t cooasionally a VP gets on the conference call and asks questions like “Who is the #1 trainee? They also ask “Who are the bottom two people, I want them to stay on after to call so we can talk.” They are not messing around and will expose you. It can be a very embarrassing time if you are not at the top of the class.

So, after the product training is over the sales training begins. Out fo the 20 that started only 18 of us made it to Dallas. Those bottom two were unfortunately not asked to continue. They flew the 18 that were left to Dallas, TX where I got off of my plane to a chauffeured black Lincoln limo was waiting next to a driver holding a large sign with my name on it. I literally uttered “Holy shit, I have arrived!” This was my type of business trip! I have traveled extensively across the US and internationally (see future blogs) with my family so I knew what to expect and I know exactly what travel is like. Believe me when I tell you Xerox takes care of their trainees. In the limo was a number of different beverages that I managed to enjoy in the 25 minute drive from Dallas Ft. Worth airport to Lewisville. It was awesome and made me love the company. But I digress…

Client Centered Selling

The next day sales training began. I wont go too much into detail but basically Xerox trains you to sell anything, not only copiers. They give you the tools, that they are continuously reinventing, to position your product better than anyone else. I left a week of sales training and I came in a piece of coal, and exited a diamond. It was intense, it was stressful, it was amazing. Of the 18 that entered only 16 were left. On the second to last day at lunch our trainer came to our table and said “Would Jeff and Angela please join me?” They never came back. In Client Centeres Selling we were tested twice daily. They are long and not easy. They had gotten below a 90% on two tests in a row. They were excused from sales training.

To give you an example of what the sales training is like compared to what you are used to: The OLD way of selling is using what I like to call the “word tricks”. We’ve all heard them, they are as overused like pick-up lines at a bar and include: Shall we use my pen or yours? Or If I could _____ would you _____? Or Wouldn’t it be worth the additional cost to allow you to do ______ faster/better/more accurately?

Xerox sales training basically can be summed in in a few words: Find your monopoly. This is my summarization, not theirs, but I think it speaks volumes. Every premium priced product has more options then a standard priced product. Think Lexus vs. Toyota or Sony vs. Sanyo. If you are sold those products in a way that makes you believe that you cannot live without one of the premium options, and that is emphasised in presentations again and again you start to really believe it. Soon, that option is more important to you than price. If this is all done correctly it actually becomes your(the customers’) idea that that option is 100% necessary. It is developing this Monopoly in your customers mind that is so powerful in sales. Without it you are only competing on price. Every product has a Monopoly, even commodities. If you cannot find it, you are simply not a good sales person. So I ask you: What is your product/companies monopoly


“Yes, No, Maybe.. What’s Worth the Most?”

If you’re hoping for temporary relief from those irritatingly persistent salespeople from XYZ Corp., try this out: “I’m not sure I’m ready to move ahead, I’ll need some time to think it over. Give me a call in a week or so.”

Unfortunately, it’s certain you and your salespeople have been on the wrong end of that sentence. And every time you hear it, you fall victim to the biggest time-waster plaguing sales organizations everywhere.

It’s the old put off – indecisive behaviour – “think about it.” Why do we encounter it so much? Well, many prospects think it’s the easiest way to get rid of you so they can focus on more immediate priorities. Some well-meaning buyers just hate to say no. But most of all, salespeople have a problem asking prospects to make a decision during sales presentations, largely because we don’t want to hear no. So, we permit prospects to drag us through the purgatory of alternating hope and despair. And even though 95% of prospects who “think about it” never result in any business, human nature compels us to hang on in hopes that, this time, things will finally go our way.

The end result: we waste valuable resources waiting for a sale that isn’t going to happen. It takes forever to get a prospect who is “thinking about it” to finally say “no,” which means we are wasting valuable time and selling resources. The “slow no” gives us a false sense of security and creates an artificially inflated forecast.

True, we must learn how to respond to prospects who always want to “think it over.” Even better though, we can learn how to stop the indecisiveness from occurring in the first place. If your prospect is not convinced of a strong, compelling reason to buy today, then they will put you off indefinitely in favour of priorities that have more immediate impact on their business and personal situation. So why not get to “no” in the first place?

Here’s how to get your prospects to make a decisive yes or no decision.

It’s critical that your customer understands they always have two distinct and equal choices at every meeting:

1. To work with you creating the next steps in the process; or

2. To end the process, and walk away.

It is critical that you let your prospect know that you are comfortable with either choice, but that “think about it” is not an acceptable option. To do this effectively you must start every sales interaction (phone or in person) with the following steps:

1. Gain agreement with the prospect that at the end of the meeting you will together decide on the best course of action.

2. At the end of the meeting, you and the prospect decide to move the process forward, or end the conversation because there is no fit. Gaining this commitment from your prospect at the beginning of the meeting will ensure the customer is comfortable telling you “no” and will not feel compelled to string you along.

3. Ask questions to understand why your prospect wants to continue the process. Have them convince that there is a reason for your continued engagement.

You prospect can decide to “think about it” or be indecisive at any stage in the sale, so don’t make the mistake of thinking it will only come when you ask for the order. If you’re having any doubts that there’s a good reason for the two of you to do business together, tell the prospect, suggest to them that you think there is no business fit and be prepared to walk away from the deal. If getting “no” early means you have time freed up to spend on real deals, deals that are going to happen, it may be the most profitable answer you could get!


12 Best Practices of Top Performing Sales People

Many people wonder what separates a top performing sales person from the rest of the pack. In most cases, it’s because they apply a number of best practices in their daily routine. Here are 12 best practices of top performing sales people.

1. They set HIGH TARGETS and goals. Top performers don’t wait for their manager to issue an annual or quarterly quota. They set their own goals which is usually more ambitious than the corporate targets.

2. They carefully PLAN their quarter, month and week, as well as their daily schedule. Too many sales people fly by the seat of their pants and only look at the day or week ahead instead of planning their month and quarter. Look at the big picture.

3. They set OBJECTIVES for every sales call. It is essential to know exactly what you want to accomplish before you make your call (face-to-face or telephone).

4. They LISTEN carefully to what their prospects & customers say. You can ask all the questions in the world but if you don’t hear what people tell you won’t be able to present the proper solution. Instead of waiting for your turn to speak listen to your customer.

5. They WAIT to present their product, service, solution or idea until they know exactly what their prospect’s situation is. The majority of sales people jump too quickly into their ‘sales pitch’ but top performers are patient and wait for the right moment.

6.. They begin every sales presentation with a brief RECAP of their understanding of the prospect’s situation. Again, a simple concept but one that is greatly ignored by many sales people. A quick summary of your customers’ situation give you the opportunity to ensure that your presentation addresses their key issues.

7.. They know how to ADAPT their sales presentation if their prospect’s situation has changed. Making changes on-the-fly is challenging but it is one way to stand out from your competition. Learn how to modify your presentation when customer’s situation has changed from the time you initially met to the time you are delivering your presentation.

8.. They know how to properly and effectively POSITION their product, service or solution. The vast majority of sales people fail miserably at this. They talk, talk, talk but usually end up talking about aspects of their product or solution that have little or no relevance to their customer’s situation.

9.. Their sales presentations FOCUS on the prospect. Most sales presentations focus on the seller’s company, their product, or other trivial information that is of no interest to the customer.

10. They always establish the NEXT STEPS. Decision makers are busier than ever which means they are more difficult to connect with. Avoid losing contact with a prospect by agreeing on the next steps after every sales call. Do this in face-to-face meetings and telephone calls.

11. They FOLLOW-UP after the initial call or meeting. Many a sale has been lost because the sales rep failed to follow up after the initial call. You cannot rely on your prospect or customer to call you; you need to take this initiative. Set this up during your call or meeting. They PROSPECT continually to keep their pipeline full. It’s not uncommon for sales reps to experience peaks and valleys in their sales. This is usually a result of failing to prospect for new business on a regular basis. Avoid the highs and lows and schedule time to prospect for new business every week.

12. They deal with the DECISION-MAKER whenever possible. Dealing with people who have little or no buying authority is a waste of time. However, many sales people fall into this trap because it is easier to connect with people other than the decision maker. And that may be true. However, in the long run, they end wasting their time because they don’t close the deal.



5 Excuses Sales People Need to Stop Using

Sales people make a number of excuses why they can’t reach their sales targets or why prospects and customer don’t buy. Here are just a few:

1. The competition is cheaper. While there will always be companies who sell the same or similar product as you, very seldom is the competition as cheap as you think. However, smart buyers will often try to get a better price by indicating that a competitor is cheaper.

2. We don’t have new products. Many sales people lament the fact that their company has not issued or released a new product. However, this is seldom a concern form a buyer’s perspective unless a competitor has a newer product that offers additional benefits that are important to the buyer.

3. The economy is still bad. Yes, the economy is still challenging but companies are making buying decisions. They are purchasing products and implementing new systems. The goal is to identify those companies and target your efforts accordingly.

4. The company expects too much. I remember talking to a district sales manager who lamented the fact that her company was expecting a twelve percent increase in revenues in the upcoming year. However, I have never known a company to say, Well, we just finished a record year so let’s coast this year, shall we?” Do shareholders expect a lot? Of course. You would too if it was your money on the line.

5. My sales targets are unrealistic. Let’s face it; most compensation programs do not reward sales people when they fail to reach their quotas or targets. As a result, sales reps often believe that their sales goals are unrealistic. However, top performing sales reps set their own targets which are usually higher than the quotas established by their boss. If they can do it, so can you.

You can make all the excuses in the world but it doesn’t change the fact that you and only you are accountable for reaching your sales targets. This may sound harsh but if you don’t want the responsibility, find another career.


How to Lose a Prospect’s Attention in 5 Seconds or Less

When you make contact with a new prospect—either by telephone or in a face-to-face meeting—you have an extremely short window of time to connect with them. If you fail to achieve this they will quickly tune you out. Here are several things you can do to lose your prospect’s attention in the first five seconds of the conversation:

1. Start a telephone conversation with, “Hi, how are you?”

2. Open your conversation by introducing yourself, your company and what you do.

3. Make small talk about “stuff” you see in their office (awards, plaques, photos, etc).

4. Give them an overview of your products and services.

5. Explain how your product or service will benefit them.

6. Tell them what other companies you have worked with.

7. Show them the awards and accolades your company product has received.

8. Give them a brochure that outlines your key products or services.

Unfortunately, most sales people fail to effectively open the sales conversation with a new prospect. Most of the sales calls and meetings I have been subjected to over the years have started with one or more of the above. However, the moment your prospect senses that you are trying to sell them something that they don’t need or want they will tune you out and look for a way to disengage or disconnect from the call. They don’t care about you. They don’t want to know about your company. They don’t want to listen to you talk about your products or service. They want a solution to a problem. They want to know how you can help them improve their business. Here is how you do that.

Focus your attention on the prospect!

It may sound simple but most sales people don’t get it. They still believe that selling means talking at great length about their company, their product or their service. However, truly effective salesmanship is all about asking the prospect the right questions and demonstrating that you can help them solve a particular problem or issue. That means you need to direct ALL of your attention on their situation and resist the opportunity to talk about your company or your offering.

If you are making cold calls you can accomplish this by modifying your opening statement or voice mail message. State a specific problem they are likely facing (based on your experience or research). For example,

“Mr. Big, if you’re like other companies in ABC industry, I suspect that you (fill in the blank with the problem). If this is the case, call me at 800-555-1212 and I might be able to suggest a solution. By the way, it’s David calling and my number is 800-555-1212.”

This also applies to face-to-face meetings as well.

When you meet with a new prospect for the first time, the last thing you want to do is to start blathering away about your product or service. Instead, open the conversation by asking, “Mrs. Prospect, many of our clients are currently experiencing (insert the problem here). How does that compare to your company’s situation?” This demonstrates that you are knowledgeable of their business and/or the industry and it gives your prospect the opportunity to tell you about their chief concerns.

Over the last fifteen years I have learned that most people will tell you anything you want to know providing you give them a reason to do so. Launching into a product demo does not achieve this but showing interest in their business does. The key is to develop and ask high-value questions.

Several years ago I worked with a company who regularly participated in industry trade shows. I observed them at one show and noticed that their sales reps simply talked about the products that people showed interest in. Not surprisingly, their closing ratio was low because in most cases they gave information that was not relevant to that prospect’s situation and that they talked to people who had little or no motivation to buy. After some training, they began asking people a few high-quality questions to determine the people who had problems, challenges, and were seriously interested in their products. They were instructed to let “tire-kickers” look around and focus their time on people who had pressing concerns. At the end of the show their sales were slightly higher but they also had a list of highly-qualified people to follow up with and many of these individuals ended up buying from my client.

Here’s the bottom line. The more time you spend talking about your product, the less inclined a prospect will want to continue that conversation. The more you focus your attention on their situation, their problems and demonstrating how you can help them improve their business, the more you differentiate yourself from the competition.

You only have few moments to connect with a prospect so keep it brief. Keep it focused.

Keep it about them. And you will keep their attention.